VK now in Tonga

Soon after my last post on August 23, Dick sent another word document with his latest tales. Sadly there are no new photos so you have to use your imagination or google. 

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

July 24, 2016

Distance to New Zealand: 3,313 n.m.

Distance sailed to date: 6,160 n.m 

Rick left from Bora Bora – to NZ to plant his garlics. Thanks for all the help, Rick.

I got Rick’s dish duty.

Steven drew the cooking lot.

Bora Bora is a spectacular island. There must have been a “big bang” to form those jagged peaks. We semi-circumnavigated, inside the reef, in a couple of hours. It is reported to have 2,500 of those cute frond covered resort shacks over the water that must inspire holidays that have honeymoon type agendas. We snorkeled with the resident rays and black-tipped reef sharks, both with their retinue of remora. Although it is very touristy and manicured the ambience was great and the anchorages and mooring buoys made for an easy life – with the luxury of wifi at the Yacht Club.

Aitutaki, Cook Islands

August 4, 2016

We had been waiting for the right conditions to allow us to negotiate the difficult pass to (and from) the island of Maupiti. However, with the approaching expiry of our 90 day visa for French Polynesia and our appointment in Niue we abandoned the idea of going to Maupiti and made the passage to Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. The first 2 days with trade wind conditions were great, but the next 2 days we motor sailed with a light northerly. On our approach to Aitutaki in the late afternoon the wind clocked around until it was on the nose at 27 knots and combined with an untimely rain squall to limit our visibility. As we were considering our position and our options which included anchoring off what was now a lee shore, stooging around until morning or negotiating the channel in the dark, we noticed half a dozen small outboard powered boats outside the reef! What the heck – turns out they were locals participating in a fishing competition. Encouraged that we were not alone out there, we found the lights to the channel and followed them gratefully to the little harbour where we tied up to the dock. The channel was blasted out of the coral by the US military during WW2. It is only 40ft wide, 3/4 mile long with a reported minimum depth of 1.9m. It is silting up, getting shallower, and as a consequence fewer monohulls are visiting. We were met by the agriculture official who took all our fresh fruit and vegetables.

Aitutaki is lovely!

Very reminiscent of Fakarava in the Tuamotus. Happy, laid back.

English is the language – along with a local language, Cook Island Maori.

Currency is $NZ, with beautiful Cook Island coins.

There are no dogs.

Steven counted at least 10 churches for the 1,700 residents.

The biggest issue appeared to be “No flights on Sundays” according to all the billboards.

There was a bank robbery a few years ago. The safe was not operational, so the bank was keeping the money in a visible locked refrigerator! The suspected out-of-town robbers escaped to sea.

According to Kiwi Greg, the island’s only export down the channel to the freighter is crushed aluminum cans.

Milestone: Maupiti, French Polynesia is half-way around the world from Cokertme, Turkey, where we started three years ago.

Palmerston Atoll, Cook Islands

August 10, 2016 

The 2 day downwind passage to idyllic Palmerston Atoll was notable for the complete absence of life in the ocean – not a bird, fish or mammal was seen.

At Palmerston we were met in the early morning by Bob Marsters and son Andrew who helped us tie up to one of their moorings just outside the reef. Listen to this from “Charlie’s Charts”:

“The Island’s inhabitants have a unique history. They are the descendants of a patriarchal figure, William Marsters, a Lancashire sea captain who settled here with three Penrhyn Island wives in 1862. He fathered 26 children, divided the islands and reefs into sections for each of the three “families” and established strict rules regarding intermarriage. In 2009 the island had a population of about 50 inhabitants including 23 children, all of which are descended from “Father” Marsters. The island “government” is run by Tere Marsters and his wife Yvonne and employs fifteen people (half of the adult population.”

Bob and his family, including irrepressible 4-year old grandson Henry, were our delightful hosts. We were given a tour of the island, the electrical distribution from solar panels, Captain Marsters’ old house and grave, chatted with various people about the school, logistics, government, etc and were spoiled with fabulous fish lunches. The main export is frozen parrot fish fillets to restaurants and hotels in Rarotonga. The wonderful hospitality was such that we stayed an extra lazy day and cancelled Beveridge Reef from our itinerary. We even watched a bit of olympics 7s rugby.


August 24, 2016

Niue, an independent nation with close ties to New Zealand is a limestone rock with a close fringing reef. The only place for cruising yachts is the mooring field at the Alofi town centre off the west coast, managed by the Niue Yacht Club. The population has dwindled in recent years from 5,000 to about 1,400. Some blame is given to the cyclone that demolished many of the buildings 10 years ago.

My sister Claire joined us here. Along with “Villomee” we had volunteered our boats for a couple of weeks to assist with a Whale Research program from New Zealand. We provided the platform for researchers and students on the lookout for humpback whales returning from summer in Antarctica to breed here. The males all sing the same song which we listened to on hydrophones. The guide from French Polynesia reads: “Songs of the humpback males can last more than 20 hours, and can be heard more than 200 km away”. We saw many “flukings” and “breaches.” One evening a humpback as long as our boat cruised slowly past the port side, all lit up with phosphorescence, glowing in the moonlight, he rolled over and seemed to wave a flipper at us. Fabulous.

At the Rio olympics Fiji won the gold medal for the men’s Sevens Rugby. I understand there was a day off in celebration on their return – the first olympic gold medal for Pacifica. Good for Fiji!



Distance to New Zealand: 1,941 n.m.

Distance sailed to date: 7,339 n.m.


As usual I will add messages mainly from ham radio since then. I think there is some crossover from his document but so be it!

August 23~~We all went to the Yacht Club for the hash at 1700! There were 4 participants! and we split into the “flat” walk and the “hill” walk. Steven and I did the hill and ran back. However, the traditional beer and chips after the run were a lot of fun with the locals. They were encouraged by our attendance and plan to take us to a different trail next Monday. Ha ha. Our dance card is filling up here. Tomorrow, Wednesday, is Trivia night at the Coral Gardens followed by a talk by the Whale Research folks. Thursday night is Claire’s farewell fish dinner. Friday night is rugby again. Getting rushed off our feet – just as well nothing happens on Sunday – well, except the Washaway Bar has Sunday lunch which is fun. Then back to the hash on Monday. It is raining today and they canceled whale watching for the school kids. We had school kids yesterday. They have an oversupply of volunteer boats like us. Of course, everybody wants to go look for whales – especially if they are paying moorage and fuel! Speaking of fuel, I found the problem with the port engine fuel supply and fixed it. It was just a damaged washer but there were a lot of things to eliminate before I got there. Seems standard, diagnosis takes longer than the fix. Nice to have that resolved.

A couple of nights ago there were two whales cruising through the mooring field. In the moonlight, one whale came close by the port side of “Van Kedisi. Just under the surface we could see him clearly as he slowly cruised by. He even rolled over and seemed to wave a flipper at us. With the phosphorescence in the water, and the extreme clarity of the water here, we could see him clearly in the moonlight. Wonderful.

August 25~~We are out looking for whales this Thursday morning and we have school kids with us again – a few of them asleep! It has been a slow morning but there was some excitement with a new born, just 2 days old, “breaching” (jumping out of the water). I am baking a raisin loaf from a recipe I got from Jan. It is not firming up, but I am sure we will get there!

We won the trivia last night – tied with our 3 buddies from the Niue Hash! There was a fund raising sausage sizzle along with the Whale presentation after the trivia.

Nice day out here – the weather is cooperating better than it was. There were some uncomfortable nights for the monohulls.

August 26~~Rugby tonight again – I almost feel sorry for the Aussies, their game seemingly in decline and the All Blacks so ruthless these days. There is huge NZ support here as they all qualify for NZ passports, which also gets them to Australia. An elderly couple picked us up on the way to the airport and they had worked in NZ for 27 years in the cleaning business. They are able to live here now as NZ recently made it possible for people such as them to get the pension and live here. Nice. Everybody here is super-friendly, like Fakarava, and everybody says “Hello” or gives a hand wave if they are driving.

There was a bit of a gap due to ham radio problems so no real info on the passage to Tonga other than it was rough and both Dick and Steven did not feel well!

September 3~~We are here in Tonga and nicely anchored in dead calm water with about 15 other boats including “Villomee” and “Out of the bag”. Dinner not quite so exciting. Not much fresh stuff as the Tongans will take it. A limp lettuce, but, bright spot, sausages from NZ! While I was “down” yesterday the fridges got left off for about 18 hours so that did not help the lettuce or the left over stew. Oh well, at least the papaya was perfect and we have more than enough food.

Unfortunately, we are losing (have lost?) the battle with the F**king cockroaches. There were a very few on board when you and Suzanne were with us – did you see any? – but now they are all over. The passage we just finished seems to have brought them out and we just did a major roundup and killing. grrrr. We got some bait in Aitutaki and for a while it seemed we were winning – dead cockroaches – but now they seem to have developed immunity already. Thinking about fumigation here or in Fiji.

September 5~~

We have now checked in and we are now on a mooring buoy in Neiafu, the main town here in Vavau. Check-in not too expensive – Local $122. Local dollar about .65 $US.
We partied hearty Villomee and “Out of the bag” last night. OOB were to have left today for Musket Cove but wisely decided to wait another day. We will be following in a week.
Overcast and cooler here today. Got some stuff from the market – tomatoes for the first time in months. I may go over to Villomee for a hair of the dog – they are entertaining Kiwi friends on their boats here from NZ. Nearly home for them!


Still September 5~~We have moved back to Port Maurelle, which is not a port at all – just a nice anchorage. We picked up more stuff from the market and had veg. wraps for lunch with fried peppers and onions and cheese. Nice. At the moment we plan to leave for Fiji on Saturday night after the rugby. Nip and tuck to get there in time for the start of the regatta. We will see – watching the weather.

Tonga is 3rd worldly. It has never been a colony – so, as Steven the historian says, no 1st world power with guilt to pay for infrastructure. People seem nice – the customs guy looked at me when I mentioned Malikai Fekitoa, current Tongan All Black – and said he played with Malikai. Ha ha – trading on my All Black cap again.

September 6~~

We are back at Port Maurelle. Steven and i did a one hour walk/run on the island. Felt good. I feel like we are in a bit of a holding pattern here. Basically not going to see much of Tonga unless we axe the Regatta. We will probably go in the local race here on Friday on Villomee, probably check out on Friday too. Then watch the All Blacks on Saturday night then leave directly for Suva. About 450 miles and with the forecast strong SE trade we should get there Tuesday night, Wed checkin 14th, get going, one night enroute and arrive on the 15th the day of the start of the regatta. That is how it looks today!

September 7~~

One of the sailing books talks about the dateline crossing into Tonga where you go from UTC-11 to UTC+13 = skip one day ahead – and too bad if it is your birthday!

Steven and I constructed our route to Suva through the little islands using the best passes as per Jimmy Cornell and Trev and Jan. Looks pretty straightforward, just a question of when.

There were lots of pigs on our run yesterday which took us to a village. Trev and Jan say it is quite corrupt here. There was some major disaster here a few years back where the Govt had hired the wrong boat, probably money under the table, and the boat sank with the loss of all on board.

I have an egg on my right elbow. Whacked it on something a couple of weeks ago. Must have broken the fluid sack. I plan to get it looked at in Fiji.

ONe of the boats that checks in on the net, “Listowell Lady” is 47 miles from Niue with no steering. Their temporary system does not work and there is a leak in the hydraulic system for the main steering. Interesting listening to all the proposed remedies. It seems that cooking oil can be used as a substitute. There is another boat close behind them.

September 8~~We have pretty much decided that we will miss the Musket Cove regatta. Weather and timing not really conducive. So probably we will spend another week or so here and get to Suva, and spend a few days there. Get my elbow looked at and maybe get our teeth cleaned! “Out of the bag” reported on the net this morning they are happily in Suva harbour. They will proceed to the regatta – they plan to race their speedy boat there. Rained last night but not enough to get me out of bed to catch water. I think there is another opportunity coming up at the end of the week.

September 13~~

When we get to Whangarei, planned for some time in mid-November, but weather dependent, it will be necessary for me and Steven to vacate the boat while huge doses of chemicals are infused to kill each and every one of these little cockroach bastards. There is absolutely not one single Buddhist thought given to the possibility that one of them may have been my grandfather. Sorry about that Razzu says Marian! Claire, please keep your feelers out for the cockroach equivalent of the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

Other than that, all is well. We watched the All Blacks at a bar in Neiafu, Tonga, but unfortunately the feed crapped out at half time. At that point, I was of the opinion that Argentina were doing better than the Wallabies and the Springboks, but in the second half the Argentineans must have run out of gas and the All Blacks just piled it on. We are scheduled to watch the (hopeful) demolition of the Springboks on Saturday and then set sail for Fiji.

We seem to have fixed the port engine fuel problem. I thought we had fixed the wind instrument too, but it has gone back to its wayward ways. It seems to give accurate speed information, but not direction. Still, that is more than Cook, Hiscock or the Maori canoes had!

And that is all folks! I hope you all enjoy Dick’s messages from afar. It is sometimes hard to believe how far he has sailed since July, 2013 when he and Dean left Bodrum, Turkey. Kath Stewart’s parents left Vancouver last Friday on a cruise ship and are approaching Japan today! Yikes what a difference!



One thought on “VK now in Tonga

  1. Fun to read your adventures! We did move and once sorted out will love it. Saw an owl at 5:30 am today and this evenings entertainment was 2 big barges bring in a new dock to paramount federal dock. So a Buddhist once said that in dealing with infestations better to do it sooner than later… Killing less. I
    Wish them a higher rebirth! Take care Colleen

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